What: Shares of Ascena Retail Group (NASDAQ:ASNA) were down 13.6% as of 11:30 a.m. ET Tuesday after the company announced disappointing holiday sales results.
So what: Specifically, Ascena revealed consolidated comparable sales fell 4% year over year during the crucial holiday period, as same-store sales increases of 6% at Lane Bryant and 1% at Maurices were more than offset by declines of 1% at ANN Brands, 15% at Justice, 3% at Dressbarn, and 2% at Catherines.
To Ascena's credit, the severe decline at Justice was in line with expectations, and driven by the company's efforts to reduce excess inventory and position it well going into the upcoming transition to spring. Excluding that decline, comps would have been flat on a year-over-year basis.
However, Ascena CEO David Jaffe admitted the company was "a bit disappointed" with its holiday performance overall, adding "The holiday period for specialty retail was marked by soft traffic and unseasonably warm conditions, and was highly competitive."
Now what: As a result, Ascena's fiscal second-quarter earnings per share are now expected to be between breakeven and a loss of $0.03 per share -- well below both the company's guidance provided last month for $0.02, and analysts' consensus estimates for earnings of $0.05 per share.
That said, Ascena also reaffirmed its full-year guidance for earnings per share of $0.75 to $0.80, with Jaffe noting inventories are "well controlled" going into the new season. In the end, though, while I don't think this report should be cause for alarm for existing investors, its second-quarter shortfall does leave Ascena playing catch-up the rest of the year. As a result, I'm content watching Ascena's progress from the sidelines for at least another quarter to ensure it can get back on track.